Wednesday, 8 July 2009

To be or not to be

The last session at the Advisory Services Symposium was a debate – “To be or not to be (centralised or distributed), that is the question.” I chaired it and first off we had a speaker speaking for the motion – that centralised IT support was best. She argued that is was more efficient, there was less duplication of effort and a consistent service can only be provided to users if staff are working as part of the same department. Thee were also more opportunities for career progression in a centralised service, staff absences were more easily coped with, and there are more opportunity for multi-skilling.

The next speaker was against the motion and argued for distributed support staff on the basis that staff based in departments had a better understanding of the particular needs of departments, and could offer a service that was more tailored to individual departments needs. They were also always on-hand and available with better local knowledge.

Then we had another speaker supporting the motion, but this time with a slant towards shared services, using the NORMAN out of hours support service as an example.

Finally, a speaker neither for or against – but on the fence! He argued that a mixture of centralised and distributed was the best. Centralised support for core services and systems common across the institution, and staff located in departments to provide specialist, local support.

We had a lively debate afterwards, with many argument put forward – most of them supporting some form of centralised service, but in the end, the majority of people voted for a mixed service. It was interesting talking to people about the different models in their institutions. Most had some sort of mixed service, but in some even the local staff based in departments were members of the central IT department, and some had different arrangement for different departments. Arts and Humanities for example having more central support than more technical areas such as Science and Engineering.

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